CAIRO (Reuters) – At the Pyramids of Giza, just a handful of tourists walks among the ancient wonders. Twelve people showed up to admire Luxor’s towering colonnades the day it reopened this month. At Egypt’s Red Sea resorts, visitor numbers are well below previous years.
Even as international flights and tourist spots open up and Egypt’s coronavirus cases remain in check, officials, hotel owners and tour guides concede that the key winter season starting in October is going to be tough.
That could be bad news for the economy. Tourism accounts for up to 15% of Egypt’s national output, and officials said it was losing around $1 billion each month after the sector all but shut down from March as the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Egyptian officials say they are making every effort to reassure tourists about their safety and encourage them to visit in the hope that the sector revives gradually.
Egypt is not alone in seeing tourism slump, but it takes a heavy toll on a country that has tapped the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $8 billion in new loans this year.
“We used to see about 50 buses here. Now there are none,” said Samir, a souvenir trader who has been working at the pyramids south of Cairo for more than 30 years and has been selling his possessions to pay his son’s school fees.
“We only had one bus, a week ago, full of Russians. They took some photos and left.”
A showpiece museum next to the pyramids is due to open next year, increasing the need for a rapid recovery in 2021.
Westerners typically flock to Egypt’s historic sites and golden sands between October and May to avoid the cold at home and the excessive heat of Egypt’s summer.
As the sector gears up, hotel resorts are operating at below half capacity and major sites remain virtually empty, tourist workers and official said.
Some 220,000 tourists have visited the Red Sea province and South Sinai – home to the Sharm el-Sheikh resort – since July 1, less than 10% of last year’s levels, said Ghada Shalaby, a deputy minister at the ministry of tourism and antiquities.
Shalaby said visitors were gradually returning to the coastal resorts, but people’s safety took priority over boosting tourism numbers.
Hotels currently have capacity capped at 50% in line with health regulations.
Occupancy at Sharm el-Sheikh is 30-35% and in Egypt’s Red Sea Governorate and the resort of Hurghada it is 35-45%, a tourism ministry official said.
As sites in Luxor, across the River Nile from the Valley of the Kings, reopened on Sept. 1, a single group of 12 tourists showed up on a visit from Hurghada, said Tharwat Agamy, head of the regional branch of the Egyptian Travel Agents Association. A few more have visited the city daily since then.
Nile cruises are due to restart in October, but there is little expectation that bookings will pick up without a return of charter flights.
“We hope that next year tourism will be working,” said Agamy.
The state has moved to protect the sector with emergency funding, and more than 9,000 registered tour guides will receive 500 pounds ($32) monthly until the end of the year. Tourism firms are pleading for exemptions on some fees to be extended.
Mohamed Othman, who owns a Nile cruise boat and a hotel and markets cultural tourism in southern Egypt, said he was hopeful for some bookings in November, and reopening sent an important signal, even if “an influx won’t happen overnight”.
Officially recorded coronavirus cases have fallen to under 200 daily from highs of about 1,500 daily in mid-June.
Officials say tourist sites and hotels are subject to strict controls. Those entering the country are required to take PCR tests. But the European Union has not added Egypt to its safe travel list.
“We are sparing no effort to ensure that all measures are in place for the return of tourism to the maximum possible capacity and to spread reassurance to the tourists,” said Shalaby.
At Cairo’s Khan al Khalili market, a popular tourist shopping spot, many stores are shuttered.
“There is no one,” said Sayed Abel Khaleq, a silver shop owner.
Reporting and photo: Reuters
Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project
Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.
This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.
The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.
In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.
No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.
Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.
As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.
From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.
Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.
Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.
Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services
Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.
Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.
“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.
“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.
Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”
Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.
“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.
To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.
Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.
Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.
For more information, visit www.eleanorapp.com.
Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops
Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.
As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.
Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”
“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”
Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.
All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.
Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at: https://www.emiratesgroupcareers.com/cabin-crew/
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